Ignore the lies, enjoy the laughs
I can't believe how much taxpayer money the City of Portland is spending to campaign among the city's residents for a gas tax increase. If the issue were already on the ballot, I believe the city would be prohibited from selling it, but since there's no ballot measure, at least not yet, the high-priced propaganda just keeps rolling along.
We've already discussed here the infamous "City Transportation is in Crisis!" direct mail piece that we all got earlier this summer. Now comes a four-page spread tucked into the middle of the September edition of the Hollywood Star (or is that the Hollywood Star News?):
This is a full-color production, with maps, charts, graphs, photos, the whole works. And that's just for "Central Northeast Portland." I'll bet they produced a separate one of these for each neighborhood in the city -- particularly the middle two pages, which are quite neighborhood-specific.
In case you haven't come across one of these in your local paper yet, let me give the executive summary: Page 1 - Portland's transportation system is in crisis. Pages 2 and 3 - There are a lot of transportation improvements we could spend money on in your neighborhood, and we want your ideas for additional projects for streets around you. Page 4 - We need a gas tax increase or else, and we've got a "stakeholders committee" studying the situation. Come kill a bunch of your time at some meetings.
Before analyzing this fascinating tabloid sheet, let me state that I'm not against some additional pennies per gallon on the gas tax. The tax should have been indexed for inflation to begin with -- if not tied to the price of gas, then to consumer prices generally -- and jacking it up a little and indexing it permanently make sense to me.
But the sales job here is quite disingenuous, full of half truths (or half lies depending on your outlook on Commissioner Sam the Tram and Transportation Sue). I'm not much on "fisking" government documents, but there are several assertions in this document that deserve a rebuttal, if not a rebuke.
First things first, though. Let's enjoy the wonderful comic moments that this piece of advertising provides. You gotta love bureaucratic pronouncements like this one:
You don't say! I was thinking that there would be more crashes in low-collision areas. Obviously, I was not cut out for government work.
Next, our bridges are falling apart, but the only one we could come up with a picture of was one that we've already fixed, and in another part of town:
Rounding out the ha-ha highlights is the inevitable revelation that yes, everyone, the gas tax increase is for the children:
Aside from being hopelessly poor syntax (maybe the gas tax should fund teaching English), that's nothing short of comedy gold.
We'll break off on that note -- too much other news to write about today -- but we'll get to the seriously misleading stuff in the insert over the next day or so. Meanwhile, let's all consider how much this huge p.r. effort is costing the city, and whether it's worth it. It appears that the gas tax boost is on its way, come hell or high water; in that light, this campaign seems more about spinning it, to limit political damage to someone or other. It's not hard to guess who.